Interlude: Medical Visual

dAgoty anatomical illustration hands

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dAgoty anatomical illustration

Anatomie generale des visceres en situation, de grandeur et couleur naturelle, avec l’angeologie, et la nevrologie de chaque partie du corps humain (1752)

There is something anatomically incorrect about this color illustration, can you tell what it is?

Artist: Jacques Fabian Gautier d’Agoty (1717-1785)
Surgeon: Jacques-Francois-Marie Duverney (1661-1748)

Trained as a printmaker, Gautier d’Agoty created his illustrations using a technique he helped pioneer, color mezzotinting. Mezzotinting involves making different color impressions using individual copperplates. He was the first to use colored mezzotinting in anatomical illustration.

Gautier d’Agoty worked with the surgeon Duverney to produce a series of life-sized plates. And although Duverney and several others helped him create the plates, d’Agoty boasts that he is the “demonstrator, artist and engraver all in one.” He was a very passionate and dedicated individual, however, his beautiful illustrations are noted more for their style than their usefulness to physicians. (The heart in the above illustration is not in the correct anatomical position)

Sarah Lowengard wrote a nicely detailed article on d’Agoty. Read it at



2 thoughts on “Interlude: Medical Visual”

  1. I didn’t find any information on the accuracy of d’Agoty’s illustrations. If he was working under the guidance of a surgeon, I don’t think that he would have compromised accuracy for the sake of trying to show the musculature in relation to some of the major organs. He also could have worked with a body that had an anomolous position of the heart. I think that would have been quite rare though. Either way I feel bad for that body’s left lung, it’s almost in his armpit!

  2. That heart is pretty silly over there!

    Do you have any info on whether it was a practical choice so the illustrator could depict both the heart, and the musculature of one full half of the torso? Perhaps he thought it would be obvious to a practitioner that the heart was not actually located there. Or was he genuinely that confused about its position? If he was working from life, it’s hard to see how that confusion could happen.

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